Today I will tell you how to recycle plastic in Nigeria. This is not limited to Nigeria alone, you may use the information here in whatever location you are. I bet most will work just fine or much better than in Nigeria.
Let’s start from the beginning.
Plastic production has grown rapidly since the 1950s, with the amount of plastic produced doubling every 15 years. This is the fastest-growing material of all man-made materials. We can see this increase in our daily lives, with the use of plastic everywhere and for everything.
Plastic is found in many places in the modern world: in our homes, in our cars, at work, in our electronics, in our children’s toys, in our gardens… Plastic even covers most of our meals!
All of this plastic use is very important to the environment as most of the plastics available today are derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. We often start to realize that we have a problem, but plastic is so ingrained in our lives that it cannot be easily eliminated.
A good way to curb plastic production is to recycle plastic that has already been produced and use it to make new products.
Plastic recycling has progressed even further in recent years and is becoming more and more efficient. Fortunately, much of the plastic can be easily converted into new products. Recycling plastic waste reduces our need for more fossil fuels. It also saves energy, landfill space, and emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
But how is plastic recycled?
The plastic recycling process
The plastic recycling process is broken down into a few stages. In general, these stages remain the same for most types of recycling plants, but some stages can be combined or omitted in specific situations.
Stage 1: Collection
The first step in the recycling process is always collecting the plastic material to be recycled.
This stage is up to you, businesses, restaurants and the public to take their plastic waste to the right place. When plastic waste is thrown into the same trash bins as everything else, it is usually not recycled, so it is extremely important to separate other rubbish from plastic waste.
Additionally, it is ideal for societies to have recycling collection systems that go to homes or businesses to collect plastic waste. Where this is not possible, local plastic collection points must be easily accessible to the public. Making it easier and more convenient for people to properly dispose of plastic waste. This is key to encouraging recycling.
Stage 2: Sorting
Once the plastics have been collected and transported to a recycling facility, the next step is sorting.
Plastic recycling in Nigeria often employs human labour but there are machines that sort plastics into different bins based on a variety of properties, often dependent on the recycling facility or the end product being produced.
Plastics are often classified in common ways, such as the type of plastic (material it is made of), the colour of the plastic or even how it was made. This is important because different types of plastic need to be processed in different ways and some recycling facilities may only recycle one type of plastic. When the wrong type of plastic is processed in the wrong facility, it can affect the efficiency of the entire process and require the entire batch to be returned for recycling.
Stage 3: Wash
Just like clothes, fruit/vegetables and many other things, to recycle plastic, you need to wash it before processing. The purpose of this step is to remove contaminants and anything that isn’t plastic.
Most waste plastic containers and packaging have labels, stickers, or even food residue that needs to be removed. This non-plastic waste cannot be recycled together with plastics because it can lead to poor structural integrity in the end product.
Stage 4 – Resize or Shredding
This involves grinding or granulating recycle plastic waste into smaller particles. This increases the surface area of the plastic, which makes processing, forming and, if necessary, transport easier.
Additionally, it provides recycling facilities with a final opportunity to dispose of all non-plastic waste that has gone through the first 3 processing stages. This is usually done with metal detectors or magnets, which help remove any remaining metal from the mix.
Stage 5: Identification and Separation of Plastics
The identification and separation of plastics are achieved when the now small plastic particles are tested for their quality and goodness.
The first proven quality is density. This is done by having the particles float in a large tank of water. Particles that are less dense than water float and higher density particles sink.
Your flight rating will then be determined. Air classification is an official term that indicates the thickness or fineness of a particle. This is done by dropping the particles into a small wind tunnel. Smaller parts fly higher in the tunnel and larger ones fly lower.
Two other properties that are often tested on plastics are their melting point and colour. These are determined by collecting and analyzing samples from each batch of plastic particles.
Stage 6: Composition
The final step of the recycling process is often considered the most exciting, as it converts plastic particles into usable recycled materials for future production. The composition is made when small particles are crushed and melted into plastic granules. The granules can then be used to manufacture other plastic products.
During this process, the plastic can be handed over to different factories specializing in different stages of the process. It can consume a lot of energy, and the better you know about the process, the more you can reduce the time and energy it takes.
Example of plastic recycling: how is plastic recycled?
Let’s say you just drank water from a disposable (but recyclable!) water bottle that you bought from a store. As you trash the empty bottle into your home waste, you wonder, “What will actually happen to this water bottle now that I’m finished with it?”
It’s a long road to getting your plastic water bottle out of the trash and into new products!
- First, your bottle must be picked up at a recycling centre. This can happen when recycling pickup drivers pick up your plastic recycling bin from the curb outside your home, or when you take your recyclables to a local recycling facility.
- If the local recycling company has a single-stream recycling system where all materials are collected together, these materials must go through a sorting process to separate the different materials such as glass, paper or metals. In most cases, this sorting process is largely automated by machines, but it may also involve manual sorting to remove as much contamination from the materials as possible.
- Since many types of plastics are used today, all plastics in a recycling plant must be sorted by type. Your plastic water bottle will likely be bundled with the other plastics made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE). Unfortunately, some types of plastic are not as easy to recycle as others. Many recycling facilities do not have equipment that can process all types of plastic, so these items may be sold to another facility that can recycle them, or they may end up in a landfill. Ask your plastics recycler what they do with items they cannot process.
- Your disposed plastic bottle is then taken to an area of the recycling facility where it is shredded into chips or flakes and the plastic is washed to remove any remaining labels or debris.
- The plastic is dried, melted and formed into granules that can be used to create new products.
- Recycled plastic pellets can be sold to companies and used in the manufacture of various products. Some products made from recycled plastic bottles include faux wool, wood products, carpets, flooring, furniture, motor oil, detergent bottles, pipes and buckets.
Your water bottle will now have a new life like everything else! So recycling plastic bottles is really worth it.
How can you recycle plastic in Nigeria?
Despite the efficiency of most recycling facilities, there can still be challenges associated with the plastics recycling process in Nigeria. Materials like dyes, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and sometimes biodegradable plastic parts can potentially contaminate an entire batch of petroleum-based plastics, and all of these need to be disposed of. Because of this, it is very important to follow your recycling company’s guidelines on which plastics can and cannot be accepted.
The first step in the recycling process is one of the most important. If we (as users) don’t dispose of our plastic in the right place, our goal to recycle plastics more maynever be achieved.
When it comes to recycling plastic, there are some helpful tips to keep in mind to speed up the process.
- First, remember that almost all plastic bottles and food containers can be recycled. When we recycle these containers, it’s important to wash or shake them to reduce the amount of food waste that is sent to the recycling centre.
- Second, remove the screw caps from the bottles you recycle. The caps are made of a different plastic than the bottle. If we do not dispose of them, they must be disposed of by the recycling centre staff before they can be processed.
- Then reach out to recycling companies like EVO3D and join their #TrashEvolution game to recycle plastic bottles and earn.
Both tips reduce the labour and energy required for the recycling process.
Which plastics can be recycled in Nigeria?
Not all types of plastic can be easily recycled, but how do you know which ones can be recycled and which ones can’t?
On most plastic containers and bottles you will find a small number that indicates the type of plastic. This code is becoming more common.
Plastics No. 1, 2, 4 and 5 can be easily recycled.
These plastics are different types of polyethylene and polypropylene. They are used in items ranging from water bottles and toys to grocery bags. These plastics are the most commonly used types.
Plastics No. 3, 6 and 7 cannot be easily recycled.
These are PVC, polystyrene and all other types of plastic not mentioned. These plastics have been shown to contain toxins and chemicals that cause health problems and trying to recycle plastics in this category en mass has been more than difficult.
How much plastic is recycled in Nigeria?
According to a report by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Nigeria generates more than 32 million tons of waste annually, of which 2.5 million tons is plastic. Nigeria is among the top 20 countries contributing 83% of the total amount of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans.
A World Bank report estimates that with 0.51 kilograms of waste produced daily for every Nigerian, it is projected to reach 107 million tons by 2050, a development that poses both a threat and an opportunity.
According to BusinessDay, Landfills are overflowing in states like Borno, Aba, and Osun. More than 200,000 tons of plastics from Nigeria end up in the Atlantic. Last year, the international non-profit organization Clean-Up Nigeria, with consultative status at the United Nations, found that more than 172.7 million Nigerians were living in an unsanitary environment. This puts them at risk of contracting diseases.
Unfortunately, Nigeria has done little in to support the global charge to recycle plastics more. Compared to other developing countries such as Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, their commitment to the fight against plastic pollution is far below average.
Plastic pollution thrives in Nigeria.
Lagos, a Nigerian megacity of nearly 16 million people, produces between 13,000 and 15,000 tons of waste every day, including 2,250 tons of plastic, according to a local recycling company.
Nigerian lawmakers were considering a bill to ban the use of plastic bags in 2019. The project that would have helped recycle plastics more remains in limbo. There is more to read and it has not yet been made into law. Therefore, plastic bags are used indiscriminately in Nigeria.
Evidence of the harm it causes is mounting.
Are good products made from recycled plastic?
In the last 10 years, more and more products have been made from recycled plastic. These products cover a wide spectrum: from skateboards to reusable bags to sunglasses. The possibilities for more and different types of recycled plastic products are almost endless.
The amount of recycled plastic products continues to increase. This is a positive sign that people are becoming more aware of the negative impacts of plastics and the benefits of recycling.
Almost all the plastic we use becomes waste, and a large amount ends up in our oceans, rivers and terrestrial habitats. We already know that these tailings are having a huge impact on our natural ecosystems and cannot continue. As a species, we must recognize this problem and work together to actively overcome it. A good start in this fight is to recycle plastic that we already use and be positive role models for our colleagues.
Reducing plastic consumption is the best solution, but recycling plastic whenever possible is the best solution!
Why buy recycled plastic products in Nigeria?
Buying 100% recycled products is a great way to conserve natural resources like; mined metals, trees and oil. Typically, the manufacturing processes used to create these products also require less energy to produce.
For example, recycled aluminium foil can be produced using 95% less energy than new aluminium foil. Recycled materials also reduce pollution and save water; Not to mention how they keep our waste from slowly spoiling in a landfill.
And nowadays recyclables are a great asset.